Land Port of Entry borderline & related matters: DPWI briefing; with Deputy Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

14 October 2020
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure (NA) 14 Oct 2020

In this virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) on its site clearance for integrated borderline fencing and patrol roads. This was in response to the porous state of South Africa’s borders. The DPWI shared its plans to ensure that the borders are fit for the purpose in securing the country. The Deputy Minister was in attendance.

During its presentation, the DPWI shared the project status, the estimated timeframes for completion, the proposed conceptual models and international standards, the financial and budget implications for the fencing and patrol roads, and the plans for future engagements with stakeholders. The Department would like to take an integrated approach to boarder management in collaboration with the Department of Defence, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Police, and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The site clearance process is the first phase in the whole project and serves as a land feasibility assessment. The second phase is the planning and design phase, which is followed by the final construction phase. The site clearance project is 80% complete and has been delayed by 6 months due to the pandemic. However, the department reassured Members that it would try by all means to meet its target completion dates. The DPWI has 3 site clearance projects registered currently, after it identified key areas of vulnerability. Project 1 is for the Republic of South Africa (RSA), Swaziland and Mozambique borderline, which has been split into 2. The first area under Project 1A has a span of 54 kilometres (km) and the second, Project 1B, is over 500km. Project 2 is for the RSA and Zimbabwe borderline spanning over 700km. Lastly project 3 is for the RSA and Lesotho borderline spanning over 600km. The Department is aiming to complete the projects by February 2021.

The DPWI presented the Committee with its conceptual border fence models for an integrated security system. This integrated approach consists of three systems, namely, a physical barrier system, detection system and response system. The department elaborated on the proposed advanced technology to be used for the security system, such as drones and kinetic sensors, along with the specialised fencing and patrol road. The response system revolves around the concept of reaction by patrol officers and police after being notified of intrusions along the borderline. The Department highlighted some of the challenges encountered, such as farm encroachments of the 100-metre-wide servitude requirement for borderlines. It also highlighted the failure of the state to look after its borderlines, resulting in socio-economic challenges for the country and the border breaches by economic migrants. There were also challenges with the Beitbridge project in which irregularities resulted in fruitless expenditure. There was the transgression of environmental law, deliberate ignorance of expert advice and a failure to follow due process. Lastly, the Department shared the financial implications and funding strategies for the project, highlighting that it would require over R5 billion.

During the discussion, Members of the Committee raised concerns around the irregularities of the Beitbridge project and Kosi bay area, where Members recently went to perform oversight duties. The Department reassured Members that it is doing its best to address the irregularities around the Beitbridge fiasco by holding participants accountable. The Acting Director-General informed Members that 11 individuals in the DPWI were recently charged for the roles they played and there is an ongoing case with the Special Investigating Unit. The department has also reported the case to the Built Environment Council to investigate the consultants involved. The department will keep the Committee informed on the investigation outcomes and processes. Members also raised concerns around the lack of funding, the outdated costs (which were already high) and the 6-month timeframe delay. The Committee requested that updated costing, that includes the sensing and detection systems, be submitted. It also requested that an updated report on how the DPWI is acting on the report of the SIU be submitted.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone in attendance. She announced that the Expropriation Bill 2020 has been submitted to Parliament. The Committee should prepare and do research in order to act on the Bill immediately after receiving it. The President would like to see the final Bill before the end of the year. She announced that the purpose of the meeting is a briefing on the site clearance for the Land Port of Entry Borderline.

The Committee Secretariat noted apologies from Mr P Van Staden (FF+) and Minister Patricia de Lille, who is attending a cabinet meeting this morning.

The Chairperson noted an apology from Ms L Mjobo (ANC) who is busy with a constituency programme launch.

Briefing by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI)
Ms Noxolo Kiviet, Deputy Minister of DPWI, stated that the country’s borders are porous. The DPWI is responsible for the infrastructure needs of the Department of Defence (DoD), Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Department of Police, and the Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO) in border management. The presentation shares information on how the DPWI plans to ensure the state of the borders is at an appropriate standard. 

Mr Imtiaz Fazel, Acting Director-General (DG), DPWI, elaborated on the DPWI’s role in the Border Management Authority (BMA) and explained that border patrol and protection functions were not a part of its role in the BMA. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be maintaining these functions, and is responsible for border defence whereas the DPWI is responsible for providing fencing.

As part of the SANDF’s Operation Corona for secure border management, an integrated sight clearance project was started. This was to look at the fencing and border patrols across the borderlines in order to
Gather information for a land feasibility assessment. This information would be used as the basis for developing secure border infrastructure. The land feasibility assessment is the first step of the project, which will be followed by engagements with the DoD, DIRCO, DOHA and the police to determine what needs to be done to secure the borders. This sight clearance process was done by the town planning unit and the presentation elaborates on the work of the project, the progress so far and the estimated costs.

Mr Malusi Ganiso, Director: Town Planning, DPWI, explained that the International standards require the state to register a servitude of 100metres (m) across the borderline. However, a topographical survey on South Africa’s borders showed challenging terrains on the borderlines, and so the state has registered 50m wide servitudes. There was also evidence of Farmers having encroached on or beyond the required servitude for the borderline. Since 1994, the state has failed to look after its borderlines, resulting in socio-economic challenges for the country. In assessing how to rectify the borderlines, the DPWI is looking into 2 things, namely, proper fencing and building patrol roads with this site clearance project. DPWI has 3 site clearance projects registered currently, after it identified key areas of vulnerability in which the state of borders is poor. Project 1 is for the Republic of South Africa (RSA), Swaziland and Mozambique borderlines, which has been split into 2. The first area under Project 1A has a span of 54 kilometres (km) and the second, Project 1B, is over 500km. Project 2 is for the RSA and Zimbabwe borderline spanning over 700km. Lastly project 3 is for the RSA and Lesotho borderline spanning over 600km.

Mr Ganiso highlighted the project status and pointed out that 80% of the site clearance project has been completed. He added that if it were not for the pandemic, it would be at 90-95% complete. A major challenge is the lack of funding for the second phase, the planning and design phase, after the site clearance has been completed. Before the lockdown, the estimated target completion dates were February 2021 for Project 1 and January 2021 for Project 2 and 3. There has been a 6-month delay, however, the DPWI will try by all means to meet the targets it has set. The department is also waiting for the Expropriation Bill to be finalised, in order to register the correct servitude with farmers that have encroached the borderline.

Mr Ganiso elaborated on the visual conceptual models for the borderlines, highlighting cross-sectional images showing the type of fencing, the location of the patrol road and the surrounding areas. He further elaborated on the planned borderline infrastructure whilst presenting the annexure document on the proposed integrated borderline security system. This approach consists of the physical barrier, a detection system and response system. It was proposed as a border fence solution for the KwaZulu-Natal Mozambique borderline in response to the hijackings in the surrounding areas. A physical barrier has very little use if it is not accompanied by a detection and response system. He presented Members with the different physical barrier options depending on the type of risk areas, such as specialised fencing and jersey barriers. The concept also proposes the use of advanced technology to prevent possible threats, such as fence mounted kinetic sensors, thermal imaging detectors and surveillance cameras. Where breaches are detected within a certain distance, information will be communicated immediately to the nearest patrol officer posts or police. It has also been proposed that drones be dispatched to the area of intrusion along the borderline. This is to ensure quick and efficient response to the threat. Included in the concept is the accompanying patrol road within the borderline servitude for soldiers to patrol.

Mr Ganiso briefly went over the solution overview, however he skipped over parts of the conceptual plan annexure stating that it was too technical to go over in the given time frame.

He elaborated on the financial implications of the project, and pointed out that SANRAL norms and standards were used to cost the infrastructure model. The costing excludes the sensing and detection systems of the Security Integrated System (SIS). The estimated project cost for the RSA, Zimbabwe and Mozambique borderline was over R1.3 billion 2 years ago, and needs to be reviewed. The projected cost for the RSA, Lesotho borderline was R1.5 billion. For phase A of the RSA, Swaziland and Mozambique borderline, the projected cost was R615 million and R1 billion for Phase B. High criminal activities in the surrounding area of uMhlabuyalingana (KZN) have an impact on the high costing. The problem with the Mozambique borderline project is that there was a transgression of environmental law in the Beitbridge project. This is because building occurred before having received approval.

Ms Sasa Subban, Deputy Director General: Real Estate Investment Services, DPWI, explained the funding strategies to be presented to Natural Treasury (NT) and the Presidency for funding. It has already been submitted to the Investment and Infrastructure Office of the Presidency. The amount required only for infrastructure exceeds R5 billion. The funding strategies contains information on the summary of the project, its location, the sponsor department/user, the estimated construction value, construction period and status of the project. The Department is currently working on a business case to use in future stakeholder engagements with DIRCO, the DoD and others. The department would like to align the integrated strategies with the planned initiatives of the Border Management Master Plan of the BMA.

The Acting DG remarked that border security is about mitigating border threats. There are different types and levels of border breaches and South Africa’s border breaches are mainly economic migrants. A border fence needs to work in conjunction with detection mechanisms and reaction mechanisms because a border structure on its own is of little use. On its own It might delay plans to breach but not effective in eliminating it.

The Chairperson requested that the annexure slides presented be sent to Members of the Committee.

Mr W Thring (ACDP) agreed with the presenter’s statement that the state has failed to protect its borders, which has led to several socio-economic challenges in the country. The Border Management Act 2020 is very late and should have been implemented 26 years ago. He disagreed with the comment that KZN has done a good job with protection on the Mozambique border. During a site visit, Members were informed of challenges with due process. The KZN Department of Transport has usurped the work of the DPWI. Site clearance was not obtained for the 25km fencing on the KZN-Mozambique border. An MOU was not agreed on and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has not been placed, yet almost R48 million has already spent on the fence. Additionally, only 200 to 300 metres of fencing was put up over 2 years. This clearly indicates that there are challenges. He proposed the Committee request an audit.

Mr Fazel replied that the DPWI first communicated KZN Department of Transport (DoT) in December 2019. However, the project had already started and so it was only raised with the DPWI after it had commenced. This made it difficult for the DPWI to play a proactive role in following due process as construction was already 10 months in and the contract had been drafted the year before. The DPWI’s Deputy Director-General (DDG): Inter-Governmental Relations Coordination, is currently facilitating the MOU that was supposed to be done a long time ago. The MOU will create conditions to ensure the project does not transgress any of the environmental rules and meet the DoD’s requirements. The border is a mandate of the DPWI and so it would like to support the KZN DoT.

Ms M Siwisa (EFF) stated that Mr Ganiso should not rush through the presentation with the excuse that certain concepts are too technical. In future, presenters should come prepared to explain any technicalities and not undermine Members’ capacity to understand elements of the presentation.

She asked why the Beitbridge project was not implemented properly if it was planned almost two years ago. The presentation appears promising however why was it not implemented before? During the Committee’s site visit to the Kosi bay border, there was a lack of representation from the DPWI, leading to an engineer having to answer political questions. How can the KZN project be assisted without an MOU and no environmental authorisation (EA)? Why was there no MOU and EA? What is happening at Kosibay?

Mr Fazel apologised for the statement made by Mr Ganiso on the technical nature of the content in the presentation. He stated that it was disrespectful and he will speak to Mr Ganiso. He also apologised for the late submission of the presentation, due to failed attempts because of the file attachment size being too large and bouncing back.

Mr Ganiso sincerely apologised to the Members for his earlier statements and did not intend to undermine the Committee. He explained that the department was told to present a maximum of 12 slides and so he purposely skipped detailed and technical slides in order to cover the most important slides. The presented information was shared for the Beitbridge project and ignored. There were concerns of the DPWI doubling the fencing in the area, however, this was not the case and the department aligned construction to what was already there. 

Deputy Minister Kiviet replied that the choice of individuals to ignore information is either due to lethargy or corruption. This ignorance is the reason for the investigation at Beitbridge and the consequence management happening there as well. The Department has a resolve that corruption and lethargy will not be tolerated. She commended the Committee’s oversight visit to Kosi bay, which revealed issues the Department was not aware of. The DPWI now knows which areas to look into for the MOU.

Mr T Mashele (ANC) stated that the conceptual plan for the Beitbridge project needed R2.5 billion. Is the money that has already been spent on the project so far part of the R2.5 billion? He expressed concern over the fact that expert advice was ignored during the Beitbridge project.

Mr Fazel explained that on 10 March the town planning unit issued a provisional site clearance certificate for the entire borderline by Beitbridge. On 17 March a site visit was conducted and the decision was taken to put up 40 kms of fencing, with 20 kms on each side of the border post. In subsequent meetings there were transgressions. This past Monday, 11 individuals in the DPWI were charged for the roles they played in the Beitbridge fiasco and the irregularities that resulted in fruitless expenditure. There is also an ongoing case with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on the unlawful nature of some of the contracts, in order to recover undue payments to contractors. The department has also reported the case to the Built Environment Council to investigate the consultants involved. It was found that the implementing agent company profited by developing a bill of quantities 3 times the value of the contract and the cost to the contractor. Advanced payments were made fraudulently and the matter was also reported to the police. The department will keep the Committee informed on the investigation outcomes and processes.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee has received the SIU report, and will continue to hold the Department accountable.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) stated that all presentations should be sent well ahead in advance so that Members can be better prepared to engage with the material. She urged presenters that this should not happen again as it disadvantages Members. She requested the DPWI to have continuous engagements with the relevant departments for border management, such as DHA and DoD, to make it a joint venture. The functions of all departments involved should be clearly stated. She raised concerns around the projected costs that are already high and exclude several important elements. She requested an updated cost projection that includes the sensors, detectors and other essential elements. How well will the detection system be protected from vandalism? How long will it take to complete the proposed projects?

Deputy Minister Kiviet apologised for the late submission of information and stated the Department has no intention to disadvantage the Committee in its processes. Moving forward, the administration will be held accountable for any delays in submitting information to the Committee.

Mr Ganiso explained that the DPWI’s process includes a pre-planning phase, which is the site clearance process and deals with the legislative framework. The second phase is the planning & design phase, which has not started yet. Most of the questions posed by Members pertain to the second phase, such as details on costing, number of people to be employed for the project, and so forth. The current information simply serves as a guideline.

Ms M Hicklin (DA) stated that the BMA seems like an unfunded mandate. The cost should be split between the South African Police Service (SAPS), DPWI, DoD and other Departments, yet it only seems to be placed on the DPWI. Where will the money come from? The fence, detection system and response system all need to be established at the same time otherwise it will become fruitless expenditure. Parliament has only been made aware of the porous state of the borders when COVID-19 came, when this should have been brought up years ago. The plans to attend to the porous borders only became apparent because of COVID-19 and the rush to protect South Africa’s borders. She raised concerns that the pandemic has revealed how vulnerable the country is. The project is supposed to be completed in January or February 2021, yet there has been a six-month delay due to COVID. She remarked that the presentation has raised more questions than it has answered.

Ms Subban explained that the first phase is the site clearance and site due diligence. The Department went a step further because in order to make a funding submission to National Treasury (NT), a certain amount of information is required in the proposal to discern which type of project it is. This project would fall under NT’s ‘mega project’ realm which required a detailed feasibility study. This technical assessment study will be done based on the current information being given. Thereafter, the financial feasibility will be done. The site clearance is 80% complete and the business case is nearly finalised, which will then be presented to stakeholders such as the DoD, DOHA and DIRCO.

Ms Hicklin stated that more credible figures need to be submitted to Treasury and other stakeholders. How realistic are the given figures?

Ms Subban replied that more realistic figures will be given during the planning and design phase, when a complete technical team of architects, engineers and quantity surveyors has been put together. The DPWI has gone to the Infrastructure Committee with the current estimated figures to try and source money for the programme.

Ms S Graham (DA) asked to what extent South Africa is engaging with other countries to assist with funding border management. Borders involve two countries yet South Africa seems to be bearing the full cost of this initiative.  The initiative uses a First World solution to deal with Third World problems. Government needs to address the Third World problems otherwise there will still be breaches, regardless of what kind of security and fences are put up. Governments have to deal with the socio-economic issues impacting crossing as well, for instance soldiers allowing people to cross over the Mozambique border to buy medication due to a lack of supply on the other side. The Jersey barrier is brilliant however the cost is concerning and so is the lack of funding for the existing project. The DPWI does not form part of the BMA. The DPWI is simply an implementer of infrastructure. The DPWI needs to have a role in the BMA if it is to fund border management. It will take 12 years for the Border Management Act to be operational and even so, it will not proceed until there is funding. There are too many things that need to be looked into before getting into the construction of infrastructure. She remarked that the presented costing is very vague and the true costs will be higher. She commended the DPWI on its research into best practice.

Ms Subban replied that the Department will include the Committee’s concerns in the business case, such as the comments on engaging with other countries and sharing of costs.

Deputy Minister Kiviet explained that once projects are implemented, the DPWI is to ensure that the programmes follow the project’s objectives. In this project, the objective is securing the borders. Work towards this is done with the contextual challenges in mind. South Africa would not like to take the approach of the United States with the Mexican border. Government would like to secure its borders and still facilitate trade.

Ms L Shabalala (ANC) stated that the ideological perspective of the project needs to be re-checked. In the past few years of democracy, South Africa has never had a problem with Lesotho and Swaziland. Breaching and car hijacking problems on the Mozambique border have been an issue for some time. Has there been a border management risk assessment for each of the bordering countries? Has the DoD submitted a client request to the DPWI? She proposed having a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Defence on such issues. Have these designs been checked by the other relevant departments? Who paid for the design and how much did it cost? Was it endorsed by other departments? She pointed out that there was no mention of job creation being prioritised in the initiative.

Mr Fazel replied that this is still the planning phase and concerns around job creation become relevant in the construction phase, which is to follow. He acknowledged Members’ concerns around the failure to use the presented information in the Beitbridge project. Findings from the Department’s investigation show that the DPWI failed to adhere to its own requirements of site clearance. Provincial site clearance was issued on the 10th of March 2020, before the national lockdown. The report findings show some issues of non-compliance.

Ms Subban replied that the Department has not finalised the designs and the best solution for borderline fencing. The technical team within the DPWI and a group of engineers are assessing the designs that were presented today. The DoD is also conducting an assessment to see how it can tighten its patrolling around the borders and considering appropriate technology use. The Acting DG of the DPWI is setting up a technical team to deal with this massive project.

Deputy Minister Kiviet replied that government can prioritise problematic areas for border security, however, this does not mean it can neglect other areas. This is because troublemakers will move away from the strengthened border areas to weaker ones, and so all borders need to be secured. 

Ms P Kopane (DA) asked if a feasibility study was done and if so, when was it done? She raised concerns with the issue of farmers encroaching beyond the servitude line. Has an audit been done on how many farmers have gone beyond the line and how this affects the project? She requested an updated budget and an idea of where the money will come from. The funding strategy on slide 11 has a construction period column with input like “3 years” and “5 years”. Can the DPWI clarify, such as “3 years from when”. She requested that specific construction periods be given. She also requested that the pictures in the Annexure document give more details on which areas or borders are being referred to, and which project is being highlighted.

Ms Subban explained that the construction period projections are included as part of the feasibility assessment. The site clearance normally takes 1-5 years to be completed. The construction phase begins thereafter, so the specified periods are, for instance, 3 or 5 years from the time site clearance is completed. The estimated construction period is predicted based on the extent of infrastructure required.

Ms Siwisa requested further clarity on the target completion dates of January 2021 and February 2021 on slide 7. Are these referring to ongoing projects or estimated time frames in planning. Will the technical aspects that were presented be implemented or is something else going to be implemented if there is an issue of financial feasibility? Is slide 7 and the annexure document referring to different things? If these are not ongoing projects, what is happening on the borders?

Mr Ganiso explained that the estimated timeframes on slide 7 are only looking at the 1st phase of the project, which addresses the legal framework and administration. It does not speak to planning, as planning and design have not been funded yet. The only thing being done is the site clearing processes. It is the same project starting with the pre-planning phase, the planning and design phase followed by the tender & construction phase. This is a pre-design phase of the project

Mr Mashele asked if the presented documents are an idea or plan.

Mr Fazel replied that this is a planning project initiated by the DPWI in response to the porous state of the borders. It serves as a land feasibility study. The costing included is simply a by-product and not the focal point. It provides a pictorial representation of the current state of South Africa’s borders, and gives an idea of what steps are to follow. The cost projections are high-level cost projections made without engaging the DoD and DOHA. Even though there is a 6-month delay, the department will try its best to stick to the timeframes.
Mr Ganiso stated that the department has done extensive research in the site clearance process. The information that was presented to the Committee is the extensive research of the department in the site clearance process. The presentation is a conceptual model to guide the planning & design phase. 

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) stated that if the proposed plan was implemented, the country would be in a different state at the moment. He expressed concern over the fact that an analysis on what was required was done, yet a few months ago, a ‘washing line’ was put up in the rush to put up a fence during the lockdown. He requested the Microsoft project program with a timeline of expected completion.

The Chairperson pointed out that the Committee agreed with the establishment of the BMA as an integration of all the departments working on South Africa’s borders. The fence at Beitbridge is still there and in good condition even though it was decommissioned in 1993. Is there no existing infrastructure in working condition in other borders? She suggested re-activating the fences to slightly reduce costs of the border management project. The use of technology is a good initiative but are the costs realistic given the urgency of the project?

Ms Subban stated that bulk infrastructure servicing may not be required as there are existing border posts. The posts will require some expansion, however, there will be some cost-saving. The Department would like to one day present the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC), with an integrated master plan for the BMA, with all the relevant departments.

Mr Fazel stated that the document will hopefully be completed early next year, and will give a comprehensive land feasibility study to be used in engagements with other stakeholders on the state of the borders.

Deputy Minister Kiviet pointed out that government needs to try harder with pushing this project because the level of illegal immigrants is becoming a challenge to the country. It brings about several socio-economic challenges such as heightened poverty. She agreed that it is something that is long overdue.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would like to see this project being implemented until the final phase, and the country’s borders becoming secure.

Adoption of Meeting Minutes
Mr Nxumalo asked when the postponed strategic plans will be done.

The Committee Secretariat stated that the strategic planning for all Portfolio Committees have been put on hold due to revised focus areas. The Committee will hear from the office of the House on when to go ahead with strategic plans.

The Chairperson proposed the adoption of the minutes of 10 October 2020.

Ms Van Schalkwyk moved for the adoption of the minutes

Mr Mashele seconded the motion.

The meeting minutes of 10 October 2020 were adopted.

Other Matters

Ms Van Schalkwyk asked what is the plan for the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) engagements.

The Committee Secretariat replied that the revised focused areas include the postponement of BRRR submissions. Departments have been given leeway to submit annual reports by 16 November 2020.

Committees have been given the period between 17-19 November 2020 for their BRRR engagements, and submit by 19 November 2020.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson, in closing, thanked all Members, presenters and stakeholders for attending.

The Committee Secretariat shared closing announcements.

The meeting was adjourned.


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